Peter Schumann's "The Divine Reality Comedy Circus" is a hell of a show

COLCHESTER Peter Schumann knows what Dante felt like. Schumann went through hell a few months ago. The Bread & Puppet Theaters founder and artistic director, the 74-year-old Schumann spent ten days in Palestines West Bank in late 2006. There, he heard horrible stories about the hellish treatment of ghetto residents by Israelis. From his experience, Schumann created his Independence Paintings illustrating Palestinian suffering. He sprinkled the artwork with quotations from John Herseys The Wall, a powerful novel about the Nazi extermination of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. The Hersey quotations damned Schumann. When the Independence Paintings were exhibited in Boston and Burlington in late 2007, Schumann was fiercely criticized. Ian Thal, a former Bread & Puppet mime-puppeteer, accused Schumann of soft-core Holocaust denial (in terms of minimalizing or trivializing the genocide) and thus, anti-Semitism. Others joined in the condemnation. Schumann was astounded by the firestorm. He says he wanted to portray an oppressed people who oppresses a people, and he adamantly denies that he sought to equate Israelis with Nazis or to deny Holocaust horrors. Schumann has tried to move on, but not away from underscoring Middle East atrocities. His new collection of large paintings depicts the particular fate of a family he met in Palestine. The paintings do contain text, but the text is from e-mails that were written by a friend of the Palestinian family. In addition, Schumann has led his theatrical group in recent performances of The Divine Reality Comedy, appropriately named after the three books of Dantes Divine Comedy. A Circus version of the show, geared toward a younger audience, was performed at Saint Michaels College on Feb. 23. The Circus featured the Grand Forgiveness Society of Glover VT , the triumph of the small farmer, advice on where to get really cheap drinking water (Dont be a sapuse the tap), a ballet by a run of roosters, and much more. If you missed the show, the Society will grandly forgive you on YouTube! With his Bread & Puppet Theater, Peter Schumann has skillfully transformed hell into humor for 45 years. He continues to do so.

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